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SC Rules Denying Child-Care Leave to Mothers of Disabled Children Violates Constitutional Duty for Gender Equality in Workforce

SC Rules Denying Child-Care Leave to Mothers of Disabled Children Violates Constitutional Duty for Gender Equality in Workforce

The Supreme Court emphasized the gravity of the situation by asserting that denying child-care leave to a mother caring for a child with disabilities constitutes a violation of the state's constitutional obligation to uphold women's equal participation in the workforce.

The division bench, comprising, Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice J B Pardiwala, directs the establishment of a committee led by the chief secretary of Himachal Pradesh. This committee is tasked with making a policy decision regarding the provision of child-care leaves (CCLs) to employed women with children who have disabilities.

The court acknowledged the seriousness of the plea, emphasizing that the participation of women in the workforce is not merely a privilege but a constitutional imperative. It underscored that the State, as a model employer, cannot ignore this obligation.

Additionally, the top court directed the inclusion of the Centre as a party to the case and requested the assistance of Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati in the adjudication process.

In the interim, the court instructed the state authorities to evaluate the request for granting child-care leave to the petitioner, who serves as an assistant professor in the Department of Geography within the state.

The petitioner's son has been coping with a genetic disorder, requiring numerous surgeries since birth. Having utilized all sanctioned leaves for her son's treatment, the petitioner now seeks child-care leave, which is provided for under the central civil service rules.

"The child care leave serves a significant constitutional objective by ensuring that women are not deprived of equal opportunities in the workforce," stated the bench, highlighting that the refusal of such leave could force a working mother to resign from her job, particularly critical for a woman with a child having special needs.

The court instructed the state government to amend its policy on child care leave (CCL) to align with the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. Additionally, the committee, comprising the chief secretary along with the secretaries of the women and child development and social welfare departments, is mandated to deliberate on the matter of CCL and reach a decision by July 31st.

"Ultimately, the plea does entrench on areas of policy and areas of State policy must be synchronous with constitutional safeguards. We direct the State of Himachal Pradesh to reconsider CCL to mothers consistent with the RPWD Act for mothers who are bringing up mothers of children with special needs," the CJI said.

Previously, on October 29, 2021, the Supreme Court had served a notice to both the state government and the director of higher education regarding the plea.

Subsequently, the court also requested the response of the commissioner under The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, in relation to the case.

 

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